Wendell Linn Deo, age 87, departed this earthly life on Monday, April 27, 2020 at Taylor House Hospice. He was the first victim of COVID-19 in Story County, Iowa. His family was very hopeful he would be numbered among the survivors, but now rejoice that he has been united with his Creator and Savior in heaven through his faith in Christ.
Wendell was the youngest of three sons born to Ray Wilson and Violet Luella (Fry) Deo in Stratford, Iowa, on July 18, 1932. The family moved to Maxwell, Iowa, in 1933 during The Great Depression when he was seven months old, purchasing the house and farm that is still owned and operated today by Wendell and Virginia’s son, Bob with his wife, Leslie, and their daughter Lizzie Deo.
Following graduation from the Maxwell Consolidated School in 1950, Wendell was drafted into the Army near the end of the Korean War, reporting to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri in January 1953. He completed Army Engineering School at Fort Belvoir and became a Combat Construction Foreman serving in Panama until December 1954. He returned home to Maxwell to work the family farm and dairy operation with his father.
On October 8, 1955 he married the love of his life, Virginia Lora Cushing, in Van Meter, Iowa. They were blessed with three sons, Dennis, Robert (Bob) and Andrew (Andy).
Wendell lost his right arm in a farming accident in the fall of 1957 while chopping silage for a neighbor. He was determined to return to farming, which he did very successfully. He always found a way to accomplish whatever needed to be done in raising feeder cattle, producing corn and soybean crops and caring for his family. One of his life mottos was, “If it is to be, it’s up to me, with God’s help.”
Having grown up in Maxwell, Wendell became involved in several endeavors to promote and improve the community. He and his older brother, Derwyn, formed Deo Brothers, Inc. and built several homes in Maxwell along with the 4-plex apartment on Metcalf Street. He was a member of the Maxwell Betterment Committee that was instrumental in planning and building the Maxwell senior housing complex. He was a co-owner of the Maxwell State Bank for many years, during which the current bank building was constructed in 1983. Wendell, Ernie Travis and Linden Caple purchased land near Maxwell forming Rock Creek LLC and worked to attract business and jobs to the community with the help of the Iowa Development Corporation. Wendell was active in the Maxwell United Methodist Church, Lions Club and Maxwell Historical Society. He had a life-long love of music, singing in the church choir and the Ametones Barbershop Chorus in Ames, Iowa. He and Virginia traveled extensively with the Wally Byam Caravan Club for many years, visiting nearly all 50 states in the course of their travels.
Wendell bought feeder cattle from cattle buyer and longtime friend, Bud Clinkingbeard, in Ava, Missouri, for many years. In 1991 Wendell and Virginia decided it was time to purchase their “retirement farm” near Ava where he continued to buy feeder cattle at local auction barns to be finished on the family farm in Iowa. Wendell was a member of the ShoMe Statesmen Barbershop Chorus in Springfield, Missouri. He and Virginia were involved in the Ava United Methodist Church and Gentry Church. They also enjoyed meals at the Ava Senior Center and local fish frys. Spring and fall they returned to Iowa to help with planting and harvest for several weeks while living in their Airstream camper on the family farm.
In January 2020 Wendell and Virginia moved to Windsor Manor Assisted Living in Nevada, Iowa. Wendell dearly loved life on his “little farm in Missouri” but selflessly left it behind to move closer to family who would be able to help him care for his beloved wife. The day he was life-flighted to Iowa Methodist Hospital his parting request to his caretaker at Windsor Manor was, “Please take good care of Virginia for me and make sure she is well.”
Those who will miss him include his children: Dennis Deo of Maxwell, IA; Bob (Leslie) of Maxwell, IA; Andy (Jennifer) of Fishers, IN; his grandchildren Zach (Alyssa) Deo of Blaine, MN; Lizzie Deo of Maxwell, IA; Matthew Deo of Ames, IA; Ben and Nick Deo and Aiden and Alicia Forrester of Fishers, IN; great-granddaughters Isabelle, Ivy and a third baby girl (due June 2020) Deo of Blaine, MN. He will also be missed by his sisters-in-law Margaret Beal of Adel, IA, and Janice Hedburg of Underwood, MN, along with many nieces, nephews, cousins and numerous friends in both Iowa and Missouri.
Wendell has been reunited in heaven with his parents Ray and Violet Deo, brothers Derwyn and Ray Warren Deo, his nephew Duane Deo, niece Nancy Deo and brothers-in-law Richard Cushing, Verlynn Beal and Hank Hedburg. The family also rejoices knowing that his body is now whole, healed and restored.
A private graveside service will be held May 7, 2020, at the Maxwell Cemetery for immediate family only due to COVID-19 restrictions. Celebration of Life gatherings will be planned at later dates in Iowa and Missouri.
Memorials may be directed to Heifer Project International (https://www.heifer.org/); The Maxwell Historical Museum located in Maxwell, Iowa; Ankeny Christian Academy (https://acaeagles.net/) and Gentry Church of Ava, Missouri. Wendell was a blood donor for many years and was a recipient of convalescent serum from a COVID-19 survivor. The family would be honored if you would donate blood in his memory.
Because of the restrictions in place during this time, the family would love to have you share memories, tributes and stories with them online through Rasmusson-Ryan Funeral Home/Nevada, Iowa, at https://www.rasmussonfh.com/.
“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 5:8 NKJV